Category: fair trade

Just Coffee and Marc Maron’s WTF

Photo by charliekwalker via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As I’ve mentioned umpteen times, J and I are diehard fans of Kickapoo Coffee. Still, I enjoyed this recent article for Isthmus, in which Jason Krause reports on the relationship between Madison’s Just Coffee and standup comic Marc Maron‘s WTF podcast:

Just Coffee has been working with Maron since 2009, when his career in comedy and radio had bottomed out. After several years of doing morning radio at the chaotic, left-leaning Air America radio network, he was demoted to producing a webcast from the lunchroom. He and on-air partner Sam Seder had no advertisers when [Just Coffee cofounder Mike] Moon emailed to say how much he liked the new show. In closing, he offhandedly suggested “some sort of sponsorship of your show — maybe we could even pay in coffee.”

Maron and Seder were thrilled. “We had a failing show a couple of people liked, and we couldn’t give away advertising if we tried,” says Maron. “We were mostly excited because he was sending us coffee.”

The full piece is an interesting and entertaining read, so check it out here.

Then, go catch Maron in the new indie movie Sleepwalk With Me, which J and I just saw with friends and liked a lot. If you think that’s not food related, you don’t know about the pizza pillow (spoiler alert)!

A Fair Deal for California’s Farm Workers

Brie Mazurek‘s recent post at Civil Eats (reposted from the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture’s website) looks at efforts to establish a domestic fair trade certification system. It’s an interesting and informative piece, and it includes lots of links to other great resources like this article from Grist. As Mazurek details,

The Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) has developed a set of fair labor guidelines under the Food Justice Certified label, which was born out of dissatisfaction with the US National Organic Program’s failure to address workers’ dignity and rights. While more than 70 Canadian farms are Food Justice Certified, only eight in the United States have received certification. There is now a burgeoning effort to bring the label to California, with Santa Cruz County-based strawberry grower Swanton Berry Farm among those leading the way.

For more on the Food Justice Certified program and efforts to get it established in California, check out the full article.

Mural by Maxine Albro, Coit Tower, San Francisco. Photo by Paul Lowry via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Vancouver: Trees Organic Coffee

Even though it’s only a two-hour time difference, the time change and travel to Vancouver has worn me out, so I’ll be brief tonight.

This morning I took advantage of the free breakfast at my hotel (I ordered fresh fruit salad and a bagel with peanut butter), but I waited to have coffee until I could stop at a Trees Organic Coffee shop on my way to the convention center. As they describe, “While a great bean is a good start, the roasting process is where the coffee’s flavour is produced. To ensure the freshest, best tasting coffee, we buy our coffee green and roast it ourselves, daily in small batches at our Granville Street Roasting House. We roast our beans to provide optimum flavour, which means that we vary our roast to bring out the best of the bean…. Our coffees are 100% organic, naturally shade grown and bought at fair trade terms.”

I had a large drip coffee; I think it was Costa Rican. Sadly, I thought it was fine but not great. At least it tasted better than it smelled, which wasn’t very good. (I’m even more grateful now for the delicious Kickapoo Coffee I get to have at home every morning.) Nevertheless, I may give them another try tomorrow, since I’m too tired to look for better options….


Conscientious Halloween

Halloween Candy

Image by respres via Flickr

I really enjoyed this piece from Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon yesterday. She describes some of the non-candy stuff that has ended up in her kids’ Halloween bags as folks try to align their food values with trick-or-treating. A few go a bit overboard, giving toothbrushes and pamphlets (yes, pamphlets) about how the deforestation from palm-oil farming threatens orangutans.

While this isn’t the Halloween haul she’s hoping for her children this year, she nevertheless does want her kids to understand that our food choices matter, both for consumers (did someone say “obesity epidemic”?) and producers (child laborers harvesting cocoa beans). As she puts it, “I don’t want my kids – or yours – to come home on Oct. 31 with a bag full of toothbrushes and earnest pamphlets. But I do believe in the power of conscious consumer choice. I want my children to understand that there’s a connection between them and the orangutans of Borneo and the kids of West Africa. That there’s a connection between what they put in their bodies and what happens to their teeth and their hearts. That even on a day when we dress up, we can be authentic.” Amen to that.

Chocolatey goodness

theo chocolate (it was on sale)

Image by cafemama via Flickr

Chocolate isn’t local in these parts (though Candinas makes seriously good truffles). The growing conditions we currently have to offer here in the Midwest aren’t very friendly to cacao. (Maybe global warming will change that someday.) That said, local isn’t the only or necessarily first priority for me when making food choices; additional factors are always also under consideration. Since locally grown isn’t an option with chocolate, I’d at least like to know that farmers are getting paid and treated fairly for growing a quality product, and that the beans are being grown in ways that minimize negative environmental impacts for the health of all involved. So, I try to buy fair trade and organic from folks who seem to be doing things right. These days my chocolate of choice is Theo. My favorite of late is their 70% cacao dark bar (the one on the far right in the photo). Pop a piece in your mouth, let it melt on your tongue, and be lifted away to some otherworldly place for a few moments.

A few years back, after reading a study published in JAMA called “Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide,” I decided to put on my fake M.D. hat and write myself a prescription for a small “therapeutic” dose of dark chocolate every day. “It’s good for my blood pressure,” Dr. Me told myself. (Start long interruptive: Setting aside this particular small, albeit well-designed study, are the positive health benefits of chocolate overrated? Yes, as are the health claims of most food products. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food does a great job of dissecting this problem. But good chocolate is full of micronutrients nonetheless, and it’s dang delicious regardless. End interruptive.) I always keep a bar or two on my desk at work, and each day, usually after lunch, I break off a bit to enjoy. The nutritional label on my Theo package says a regular-sized, 3-ounce bar contains two servings, but as part of my “low habitual intake,” I make it last for a whole 18 “doses.” The Theo bar is scored into six rows, so I break each row into three pieces. (I tried making two pieces per row, but that felt like too big a chunk, so I tried breaking it into four pieces per row, but that made for overly wee bits. Yes, I’m the kind of guy who would fine-tune such a thing.) Is it a sign of some bizarre personality defect that I can content myself with what is probably the equivalent of a single Hershey’s Kiss every workday instead of eating a much larger portion of this amazing treat, which is just sitting there on my desk in arm’s reach? Perhaps, but the unspoken deal I made with myself is that I can scarf down a huge piece if I want to, but then I can’t have it every day, and trust me, I want it every day. So, lucky guy that I am, I savor a little bit of chocolatey goodness every day!

P.S. Speaking of Hershey, you might be curious to know that Hershey chocolate bars contain a few more ingredients than Theo bar’s simple list of four (cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, and ground vanilla bean, all organic and the first three fair-trade certified). Hershey’s bonus ingredients include PGPR, or polyglycerol polyricinoleate, which apparently is there to “improve viscocity.” Yum! Manufacturers seem to like it because it can be substituted for cocoa butter, which means they can put less chocolate in every chocolate bar and still keep the stuff flowing in the factory. Hooray!

P.P.S. Did you read about the foreign exchange students who walked off their summer jobs last month at a Hershey plant in Pennsylvania to protest their exploitation?